Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Marshmallow Test Debunked

I'm sure you've heard of the marshmallow test from the 1960's - children are told by a researcher "You can have one marshmallow now or if you wait until I come back, you can have two marshmallows".  The children that delayed gratification proved to be more successful in later life and less likely to succumb to problems such as drugs, teen pregnancy, etc.  The conclusion:

WILL POWER = SUCCESS

Recently (2012), this formula was questioned by researchers at the University of Rochester.  They modified the marshmallow test.  First, kids were put in a room with art supplies.  The children were told by an adult "I'm going to get better supplies.  Wait until I get back".  The kids were split into two groups:

  1. The adult came back with better art supplies
  2. The adult came back with a lame excuse and no better art supplies
The children were then given the marshmallow test.  The results were that the kids with the reliable environment were significantly more likely to wait to get two marshmallows.  The conclusion:

RELIABLE ENVIRONMENT = WILL POWER

and the corollary would be:

RELIABLE ENVIRONMENT = SUCCESS

So if we want our next generation to be successful, we need to create an environment where they believe that any sacrifice or effort they make will be worth it.  This is a good message for parents.  It is also a good message for policy makers that want to help our communities that can't seem to rise above poverty.


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